Sunday, May 11, 2008

Antis, pet-rescue politics and YOU

I love writing about hunting for an audience that's friendly to hunting. But sometimes I go a little crazy and dip my toes in unfriendly waters, and it is always rough swimming.

Such was the case last week - but I think it was worth it. While I won't ask you to follow me into the water, I do hope you'll consider going where this particular journey took me.

The topic was the controversy last month over a chain store called Meijer agreeing to donate $1 to the Humane Society for every entry into its online pet photo contest, up to $5,000 total. The money would go into an HSUS fund set up to help rescue pets abandoned in foreclosed homes.

It's an excellent cause. But hunters - led by the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance - wanted nothing to do with a store they shop at funding an organization that opposes all but subsistence hunting, and fights perfectly legitimate and ethical hunting practices, such as dove hunting. The principle is simple: If you support my enemy, you are not my friend.

USSA called on Meijer to end the program, and after hunters followed suit with letters, blogs and phone calls, Meijer bailed. I saluted the victory and urged hunters to support USSA or any hunting organization that fights for our rights, because it's not often we win battles against the Humane Society's well-funded marketing machine.

In retrospect, though, the win was painfully short-lived. The Humane Society, whose PR tactics bear remarkable resemblance to political campaigns in virtually every respect, turned this into yet another opportunity to make hunters look like animal haters. It now claims to have raised ten times as much as Meijer was going to donate from people who were outraged by USSA's pressure on the chain.

Now, I wouldn't comment on a Humane Society or PETA blog if my life depended on it - it's like trying to talk reason in a schizophrenia ward. (I've actually tried reasoning with an untreated schizophrenic, back when I was a young reporter covering homelessness and mental health issues. It doesn't work.) But I stumbled across a post in a dog lover's blog about the issue, and I decided to jump into the comments section and try to explain why hunters loathe the Humane Society. I immediately fell under a hail of talking points straight off of HSUS's website. (Click here if you feel like being irritated by every detail.)

There were a couple commenters who seemed to be sincere about the issue, articulating original thoughts, so I tried to work with them. One women named Judy kept saying, over and over, this is not hunting vs. anti-hunting; it's about pet rescue.

While I disagree on the first part, I agree pet rescue is important, and hunters could make no better statement than to support that cause. I asked for a list of organizations that support rescuing pets that have been abandoned in foreclosed houses so I could post it here on this blog. And while I didn't get a list, Judy piped in with this advice: Call your local shelters. Donate. Volunteer. If there isn't a program for foreclosure pets, help start one.

I'd already spent $50 to join USSA and make a statement in support of hunting rights; now it was time to make a statement in support of abandoned pets. The only question was who would get my money?

The answer came so easily. I was walking into my neighborhood Petco today to restock our supply of kitty litter when I saw the sign out front: Cat Adoptions Today.

I LOVE cats.

I made a beeline to the adoption corner and started feeling that maternal tug that made me want to adopt them all. Boyfriend would kill me. We already have a 12-year-old Russian blue named Paka and a calico kitten named Giblet from the neighbors' breeding colony - she's the one pictured above. We couldn't possibly handle another cat. Paka would probably barf hairballs on my pillow every day in protest.

So I talked to the woman at the table about her program. "Do you rescue pets abandoned in foreclosed homes?" I asked.

"A few," she said. "We rescue them from all over. Some people who've adopted have had to give them back because of foreclosures."

But there is another problem stemming from the economy that's potentially even worse than foreclosure abandonments: Adoptions are down. But the number of cats needing rescue isn't.

"How do you get your funding?" I asked.

"Adoptions. Donations. Some vets donate services," she said.

"Do any organizations like the Humane Society help you?" I asked.

"Oh, no," she said.

"Can I write you a check?"

"Yes!" she said.

I didn't bring up hunting as I wrote a check for $50. Honestly, I couldn't care less what she thinks of it. All I care about is that her organization is doing the work of the angels, and it isn't doing it to maintain a facade of animal rescue to fund a campaign against hunting.

If you're from NorCal and you would like to support a local group, this operation is called Fluff Buddies. Click here for information.

If you're from somewhere else, it's not hard to find a local shelter or adoption program that isn't an arm of the Humane Society, because the HSUS does precious little work in this area compared with its massive PR campaigns. And if you're not sure where various animal organizations stand on hunting, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has an excellent guide that describes 26 animal or wildlife organizations' positions. Click here for a PDF of that guide.

Will this gesture effectively combat the Humane Society's routine slander of hunters? I doubt it. Small contributions to local groups scattered all over the country or world can't match a multimillion-dollar smear campaign.

But will it put money behind what you already know about yourself, that being a hunter does not make you an animal hater? Yes, it will.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Phillip said...

Nice one, Holly!

I remember as a kid being a member of Humane Society. They taught dog handling and obedience classes, along with offering spay/neuter clinics and shot clinics in the rural area where we lived. We had our meetings right after school in the auditorium. Next to the bookmobile, I think it was one of my favorite after-school events.

I'll add that this rural area was loaded with hunters. Every truck had a gun rack, and most kids were shooting squirrels and doves by the time they were 10 years old. But I never heard anything against hunting from those volunteers. Some of them were right there in the dove fields with us every September.

When did that change? How did it happen?

An organization like that can do so much good. But to spread the negative propaganda against hunters has cost them a whole population of supporters and donors... including me.

SimplyOutdoors said...

It definitely is hard to fight with the anti's, or more accurately said, reason with them.

Good for you though Holly doing your part to help the forgotten and abandoned animals and proving that all of us hunters are indeed not animal haters. Honestly just the opposite is true.

NorCal Cazadora said...

When I made that point on that blog - that hunters are absurdly devoted to their pets - another commenter countered by repeating a bunch of HSUS stuff about bear hunting with radio collars and letting dogs maul the bear and said that was hardly consistent with being absurdly devoted to our pets.

You really can't reason with rabid people. When I saw there were so many HSUS freaks (shills?) in the comments section, I just asked for the information I was looking for and bailed.

Anonymous said...

Great post Holly and a great idea. I hope those people who read your blog take you up on it. I know there are a lot of small animal rescue organizations that could really use the help.

Blessed said...

We rescued a Greyhound that wasn't making it on the racing circuit once. She was the most awesome dog and now that she's gone my Dad would love to have another one but they have a few too many other animals they've rescued to give a home to right now.

I agree - put your money where your mouth is - I'm sure most of the Anti's won't notice, but one of them might and even if they don't you know you did the right thing.

Tom Sorenson said...

Good for you, Holly. I love my little dog, Joey - and know many hunters who would bawl their eyes out if they lost a pet. You did a very nice thing there - and the key is going directly to the place you are donating to so that you can see where your money is going. It was a good idea to ask if they receive money from HSUS.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh yeah, I had to ask. Not that I would mind giving to an independent organization that also got money from HSUS. But this was a good way to make sure it wasn't an arm of the Humane Society.

Dan said...


Gotta admire your guts! I didn't know much about USSA or the HSUS until I read your blog.

After reading the dog blog and the scathing comments, I did research on both and came to the conclusion that HSUS is NOT the local humane society we all know and love.

It seems perfectly normal for a person to oppose an organization that is against your own beliefs. That point didn't seem to make it across to the dog folks. Somehow, it became the hunters fault that animals are being abandoned.

Every hunter I know is an animal lover (I've rescued-seven, should see the food bill)and would love to help, but HSUS's statement of policy is telling. God forbid PETA and HSUS should ever join.

Thanks for taking a hit for the team.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks! I do understand that it's counterintuitive that people who kill animals nearly worship them. But a lot of antis aren't interested in hearing what we think - it's easier to demonize us. I can't tell you how often I see letters to the editor or comments on blogs and news stories that describe hunters as cruel and heartless and vicious.

Matt said...

Very good post. I've often said that hunters are more likely to be true animal lovers than people who don't hunt.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks! I definitely think hunters see animals differently than non-hunters in general, and anti-hunters in particular.

I was looking at a PETA rant lately because my blood pressure is obviously too low, and there was a line in there about how we don't need hunters to control animal populations - nature takes care of itself.

I agree nature takes care of itself. The difference is that I accept and embrace that I am a part of nature, whereas the antis want to remove humans from nature as completely as possible.

Othmar Vohringer said...

As usual a very good article.

In response to Phillip’s comment. Your Childhood experiences you dealt with the American Humane Association (AHA) they are not the same as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The later has purposely chosen that name to confuse society into thinking that they are the same as the AHA. While the AHA is not anti hunting the HSUS is, they are as bad as PETA in any regard to animal husbandry, sport and recreation involving animals.

I read the “dog web conversation” Holly linked too and to a degree I understand why some are upset with the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) for their stance on the cooperation between Meijer and the HSUS. The reason why the USSA objected to Meijer’s donations to the HSUS was not because they wanted to help pets but because the HSUS stated very clearly. “The money donated to HSUS through this promotion might not be used directly for the cause stated. This money will free up our funds to be used in other important issues such as the fight to ban hunting.”

The “Foreclosure Pets Fund” is just another scam of HSUS to animate people to donate money in the hope that it will be used for the cause stated but unfortunately as the HSUS stated that is not the case.

It is not difficult to find out the dark and sinister truth about the HSUS, PETA and many other scam “charities” from Cancer to Food to Animals and everything in between by visiting the independent website an affiliate website of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Adhering to the believe that charity starts at home I only donate to local animal charities and pet shelters directly, at least that way I know where the money goes and what it is used for.


NorCal Cazadora said...

It appears the USSA's response to this has been to start a new fund dedicated to fighting the Humane Society - click here for the press release. The release doesn't say whether anyone's put in seed money.

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one - I foresee HSUS trying to use this against the USSA. What we really need to do is fight fire with fire. HSUS effectively wields political campaign tactics, rapid response, surrogates with talking point and "press bills" (legislation designed to do nothing more than get attention, fighting such things as "Internet hunting" which was tried once, but HSUS acts like it's epidemic). This organization is really successful at planting false images in the minds of people who may not have any inherent objection to hunting, thereby creating support, or at least the lack of objection, to some of its more ridiculous legislation.

I know all you readers who work in politics know exactly what I'm talking about.

If this new USSA fund can be channeled into comparable efforts carried out by experts, it could be effective. But HSUS has a huge head start. And while hunting organizations have been pretty good at lobbying in capitols, most have ignored the more important campaign for the minds, hearts and votes of the people.

California Waterfowl, God bless 'em, is an exception. The folks there totally get it.

Chris said...

Holly, I found your site this morning while looking for some Scaup recipes (can't wait to try your Damn Good recipe!), and I think I've just about read all the posts now - awesome!
This one touched a nerve though. I hunt, but being in North Carolina, that's not anything surprising. But recently my family and I were in the market for a new dog and ended up rescuing a litter of seven lab-somethings from a shelter, one hour before their time was up. (local news story: We kept one from the litter and found homes for all the rest.
The interesting part came a few weeks after the rescue, when a rep from the Humane Society showed up and wanted to [solicit donations] get us to help in a [solicit donations] fundraiser - right up until they saw the three mallards on the wall. Once they found out that I hunted, they could not wait to get out!

Keep up the writing!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Now, that's really interesting - the local Humane Societies are totally different from HSUS - they get little or no funding from HSUS. But I guess you had a local outfit that had the same misguided values.

Good luck with your scaup. If you decide you don't want to spend the time in the kitchen required to make that recipe, here's a suggestion: Find your local Latin market (and I guarantee that if you're in NC, you've got Mexican immigrants and therefore have Latin markets), and you can buy mole in jars. It won't be as good as homemade, but it should be good enough.